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Hardware Review of:
Soundblaster Audigy Cards
for Gaming and Sound Editing


Soundblaster Audigy

Steve Arvin is a red-eyed late night Audiofile. 

From the September, 2002 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

There are five packages that include Creative Labs Audigy sound card. Which one do you want or do you need one at all?  Well not being a sound card expert I can honestly say the only reason I got my Audigy MP3 was because it was a birthday present but ever since I have been playing with it every little chance Iíve had for the last month. Itís just got more features and software with it than you can play with in a day!  I was one of those skeptics that thought you absolutely could not get quality sound out of a PC sound card and I didnít want to spend a lot of money just to find out I was right.  Well I was wrong with a SoundBlaster Audigy Mp3 and a set of Altec Lansing 4.1 Speakers, also a birthday present, you can get a stereo quality listening experience!  

The card itself has analog, digital and firewire (IEEE1394) output along with the other standard connections like line in and microphone and it also came with a separate plug in game port (MIDI). The card supports 24bit Multi-Channel at 96 kHz but it uses software to convert the audio, something called sample rate conversion or SRC Software but you canít seem to manipulate your sound files at that sample rate. The card wants to play by default at 48 kHz but the software also lets you sample at 44.1 kHz or 96 kHz for recording from external sources like a turntable or cassette or CD.  It also samples at 16bit up to 48 kHz.  The Audigy has low latency multi-track recording ASIO support for high quality low noise recording.  As far as gaming goes this card has a 32bit audio effects engine that does a very nice job of environmental effects on the games that I have tried it with, for instance: Neverwinter Nights and Unreal Tournament.

The sound just blew me away when I downloaded Creative Labs additional EAX update files to go with Unreal Tournament which is a first person shooter that already had good sound effects as games go. The environmental effects and sound depth in the game were tremendously improved by using the EAX sound options. While I was perusing around the multitude of Creative Web sites I also found that they have put effort into adding downloadable sound fonts and a bunch of game update files and even some maps for Unreal Tournament to show off the EAX effects and digital media capabilities of the card. They also have some updates for their players and editors available online.  So I get added value and they get an A for effort.  The other thing that blew me away was the multi-channel audio capability. I ran three different media players at once and played streaming Internet radio; Mp3 and wave file music at the same time thinking that this would crash something or the sound would be garbled but I was able to distinguish each piece of music separately and distinctly vocals and all.   

Now where music listening is concerned, the EAX effects mostly make everything sound a little weird to me like the music is coming from the bottom of a well but there are some recordings where the effects are an improvement. The software install sets up a task bar menu that allows you to change preset sound effects on the fly and it has effects that will bring up the volume and definition of the vocal track or give it a slight echo like a concert halls acoustical quality, so the effects arenít all fluff like originally thought.  The other nice thing about the effects being in the task bar is that you can use any media player you prefer like WinAmp or Windows Mediaplayer which has come in very handy since PlayCenter 3 has crashed on me a good number of times while I was multi-tasking other applications.  

Well I suppose we should get on to the different packages, specifications and requirements as I said before there are five variations of the Audigy packaged as the Soundblaster Audigy DE, Gamer, MP3, Platinum, and Platinum EX. They all come with some base software:

  • FireNet 2.0: 
    for firewire networking two computers together.
  • PlayCenter 3:
    to play Rip and Burn Music CDís or audio files.
  • Creative Sound Mixer: 
    for basic sound file manipulation.
  • Gold Mine Demo: 
    to show off the EAX Environmental audio.
The Audigy DE also includes: OOZIC Player a 3D visualization creator, IM Tuner to listen to streaming Internet audio and a 3D game called Giants: Citizen Kabuto. 
The Audigy Gamer also includes another game called Deus EX. The Audigy MP3 that I got doesnít have any games but it comes with MixMeister 3 MP3 mixing software and Beatnikís Mixman for remixing Wave files.

The Audigy Platinum has a 5.25 Breakout box that goes in a drive bay and puts your connectors out front along with a volume control and a remote.  The software bundle includes: OOZIC Reactor which is a hopped version of OOZIC Player,  WaveLab Lite a wave file editor, Ulead Video Studio for digital video editing , Recycle Lite for sampling,  Cubasis VST for music recording, Vienna Sound Font Studio 3.0, and the game Giants: Citizen Kabuto.

The Audigy Platinum EX has an external breakout box and remote control. The software is the same as the Platinum but without the game and including Acid DJ 2.0 for arranging and editing and a Sequencer called Fruity Loops.

The Audigy packages range in price from $60 - $250 so a little homework might be in order, my personal opinion is that I wouldnít spend a lot of extra money on software or break out boxes unless I was a musician or a DJ and wanted those tools.  If you are a gamer the two games together would cost almost as much as the Gamer card package if you donít have them and you can download good Wave File editors from the Web for free like Cool Edit Pro at Syntrillium.  Some other Web sites to check out are Tom's Hardware  for reviews,  EAX, and  SoundBlaster  for files and information.  

I wonít even bother with the minimum requirements since you will probably want to play with all of the bells and whistles so Windows 98 or later is a must and there are no Mac OS or Linux drivers available anywhere as of this writing and you will need a Pentium II 350Mhz/MMX or an AMD 450Mhz with 3dNow, 128MB of Ram and 1GB of hardrive work space for audio editing and gaming. For DVD playback they want you to have a 2nd Generation DVD player and WinDVD or PowerDVD, and for streaming audio you will need at least a 56kbps modem. In conclusion only very serious gamers and MP3 fans need this card or if you have a firewire device that is just begging for a port and you happen to be short one sound card you will have a bargain and a lot of fun with all this card can do.

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